Former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher John Burkett of Southlake, Texas, shot 247 in his final position round match Sunday to win his first PBA Regional title and become the first former Major Leaguer to win a PBA title at any level.
Burkett, 54, won the PBA Houston Emerald Bowl Southwest Challenge, presented by Bowling Dynamix, in Houston, Texas, where he out-dueled non-PBA member Tyler Wright of Gonzales, La., by 94 pins for the victory after swapping the lead with Wright throughout the match play finals.
PBA Challenge tournaments are open to players who have not previously won a PBA title. Burkett, a lifelong bowler dating back to his formative years in the Pittsburgh area, has bowled in PBA competition for several years, and has been a regular on the PBA50 Tour over the past five years. His best finish in a national tournament was fourth place in the 2015 PBA50 Northern California Classic.
During his 16-year MLB career, Burkett compiled 166 wins with 1,766 strikeouts and a 4.31 earned run average, pitching from 1987 to 2003 with the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox. His best season came in 1993 when he went 22–7 with a 3.65 ERA for the Giants. Burkett was selected to the Major League All-Star game twice, in 1993 and 2001.
In the Houston tournament, Burkett held a 64-pin lead over Jordan Malott, the 15-year-old son of PBA star Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas. Burkett started the final game with four strikes as Malott managed early spares before opening in the third frame. Burkett then rolled to a 247-203 win while Wright regained second place with a 224-203 win over Kaden Rogillio of Deer Park, Texas. Burkett finished the tournament with 4,946 total pins for 21 games, including match play bonus pins, while Wright totaled 4,852, and Malott 4,808.
“The kid’s unbelievable,” Burkett said of the young Malott. “He looks just like (semi-retired PBA Tour titlist) Michael Fagan. He made it tough on me.
“My opponents averaged over 230 in match play, but I still won enough matches to win the event. I don’t care what it is; to win something with the PBA name on it makes me very proud,” he added.
“Maybe one of these days I’ll get a PBA50 Tour title. I’ve been close, but, man, when I get a good look on the lanes there are also a few PBA Hall of Famers who also have a good look. It’s very difficult, but this is something to build on. At least now I know I can do it.”